Monday, January 17, 2011

Missing the point?

I've been working extensively with the upcoming Adobe Digital Publishing Suite with a handful of clients. I'm excited about publishing content on the iPad and other tablet devices in general, and about Adobe's solution in particular.

The iPad has been hailed as the "Savior of News" and the "Savior of Publishing". While this may be breathless hyperbole, I'm convinced that one of the great uses for tablets is reading long-form journalism and features offline, presented in an art-directed environment.

There have been a number of recent articles (such as this one by Darrell Etherington) claiming that magazine publishers looking to distribute their content for tablet devices need to think more like apps, and less like magazines. For example, Khoi Vinh states that:

In my personal opinion, Adobe is doing a tremendous disservice to the publishing industry by encouraging these ineptly literal translations of print publications into iPad apps. They’ve fostered a preoccupation with the sort of monolithic, overbearing apps represented by The New Yorker, Wired and Popular Science. Meanwhile, what publishers should really be focusing on is clever, nimble, entertaining apps...

These articles are missing the point. Many magazine publishers and other content creator cannot afford to create and maintain custom apps, much less multiple apps for multiple tablet platforms. So some content creators are turning to solutions such as Zinio or PixelMags. These solutions make it easy to repurpose content for tablets, but the big drawback is that they simply re-create the printed page on the screen, often resulting in text that is too small, spreads that are cut in half, and very limited interactivity.

The Adobe solution, on the other hand, allows content publishers to re-design their content to take advantage of the specific size and aspect ratio of each tablet, and also add an expanding list of interactive and Web-connected features. All of this is within the grasp of the same designers who are designing and producing print pages. No higher-priced application programmers are necessary. Yes, it will require additional staff for magazines to pull this off, but it's a predictable, measurable number of additional hours needed each publication cycle.

Bottom line: The Adobe solution is about enabling publishers to leverage existing design and production resources to easily publish tablet-optimized content.


Kathryn said...

Good commentary, Keith. It's interesting to watch this technology develop before our very eyes. It has so many possibilities, and the early examples are flailing every direction to find what works. When the technology matures we'll find magazine publishers have figured out how to create apps that use interactivity to enhance their readers' experiences, but stop before that interactivity becomes an unnecessary distraction. How much is enough? Depends on your audience.

Rebecca said...

The more I explore the ADPS the more it seems like it's almost a hybrid of an app, halfway between a PDF and an app as they are created and used now. Maybe it should be called a Half-App? (Pardon the silly pun!) But so far I love it and hope I'll get to work on publications using it. I can even see the possibilities for creating catalogs and marketing materials with it. Totally agree with you. Why shouldn't publishers be able to use their existing talent, resources and software to bring their pubs to a tablet in this way? I say they should!